Everybody loves Gary McCord. He is the tournament announcer who always sees the odd view, who isn’t afraid of making the loopy comment that everyone is thinking, but no one will say. Everybody loves him.
Well, may be not the stuffed shirts who run The Masters tournament, who objected to him talking about greens that were so slick they had been bikini-waxed, and about a spot behind the 13th green where they find the body bags of golfers who hit the ball there. I mean, Augusta is more holy to golf than the Vatican is to Catholicism. How dare he?
He dares because he’s Gary.
But that’s not all Gary McCord is. He is a guy whom every Tour player should tithe one percent of their winnings to. He, not Tiger, and made the tour the lucrative profession that it is. Gary McCord is one of the top five most influential persons in the development of the PGA Tour.
Why? He was the prime mover in creating the all-exempt tour, which changed everything overnight. Here’s what that means.
In the early years of the PGA, all you had to do to play in a tournament was show up and pay the entry fee. If you were unknown, having another pro vouch for your skill established your credentials.
Starting in the late 40’s, more golfers wanted to play than there were spots in the tournament. Patently unqualified golfers tried to compete. That demanded Monday morning qualifying rounds to be played, the highest finishers given entry to the tournament staring on Thursday.
For a while, that system worked, but is was a brutal entrance to the Tour for golfers who might might be bounced on Monday and have to wait around seven more days to try again. For golfers who passed Monday qualifying, making the tournament cut meant they were eligible for the next tournament. Miss the cut, and we’ll see you again on Monday morning.
So many golfers were knocking on the Tour’s door, that a qualifying program began in 1965. Called Q School, the survivors were the ones who could play on Monday mornings.
It worked for a while, but the Tour grew to the point where in the early 1980s, 68 percent of the Tour players were non-exempt. They had to Monday-qualify to get into tournaments.
Also the Monday qualifiers, called “rabbits,” played very conservatively in order to just make the cut. They weren’t learning how to play to win.
Joe Porter, a one-time Tour pro, had, along with Phil Rogers and a few other pros, come up with the idea of an all-exempt Tour in 1973. Gary McCord called Porter in 1981 and said something had to be done. The two discussed the all-exempt idea, and McCord was off to the races.
He floated the idea to the membership of an all-exempt Tour, got the sign-off of both the big stars and the rank and file, and presented the proposal of a 125-player exempt list to Tour Commissioner Deane Beman. It was approved for the 1983 season.
Now players finishing Q-School would have an entire year of tournaments they could enter at will to retain and secure their playing privileges. No more Monday qualifying.
Though the idea wasn’t McCord’s originally, this guy, who is a lot smarter than people think, or than he wants people to think, was the prime mover behind it all. On the air, he displays the mind of a man who sees the world differently than the rest of us. But then, it took that kind of mind to see this task through.
If he doesn’t end up in the Golf Hall of Fame, there’s no justice in the world.
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